Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Puppy Love

The latest editions to the Sanddancer family (Northern branch):

Petal

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and

Monty

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They belong, one each, to my sisters and I'm very jealous. When I heard that they'd bought Chihuahua-Jack Russell crosses, I was sceptical. I was imaging some silly delicate little things, but I fell in love with them when I met them.

They are tiny, but they are pretty sturdy. Like very small big dogs!

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They are only eleven weeks old but already have distinct personalities. Petal is boisterous, but affectionate, and loves to climb. She is determined to get upstairs. Monty is calmer, curious, but not very brave. He likes to pull up the hall carpet.

They have been lots of fun over Christmas.

And of course, Ellie was there too - the Grande Dame of the Sanddancer household. She watched the new editions good naturedly from her position on the sofa.


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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Of Mice and Men

The office mouse returned today.

He scurried across the floor from underneath my colleague's desk and came running towards me. When he reached my desk, he sat at the side of my chair, and remained there quietly. We co-existed happily side by side, there was no squealing from either of us. We were quite content.

Until a colleague tried to capture him with a teacup.

Wisely he ran off again. I miss him.

I know other people are disgusted by mice, but it was the closest I've come to having a pet since I've lived in London.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yo Ho Ho and a Tanker of Oil

Despite the warning by the expert on the radio that these weren't glamorous pirates, but thugs with knives, I've still been fascinated by the pirates who've captured an oil tanker. I know they aren't romantic swashbuckling dandies but still I'm in awe of the crime - its just so audacious. I can't really comprehend how they managed to take over a ship the size of three football pitches. Yes, I realise they are ruthless criminals, but still the logistics of it are rather impressive.

There was quite a lot of talk in admiration of the pirates in my office this week, with a few people suggesting that we were in the wrong game and that they might move from the theatre world into the more lucrative field of piracy. These plans stalled however when it turned out that one of the most enthusiastic would-be pirates suffers from sea sickness so was thinking of a dryland based co-ordinating role.

I'm wondering whether all of this talk of pirates might mean better business for the stage production of "Treasure Island" that is currently on in the West End. I hope not. I saw it last week and it was possibly the worst show I've seen in my life (worse even than the production of the Hobbit with a 3 man cast and crew that I saw on my 10th birthday). There was nothing redeeming about this production at all. Even Long John Silver's wooden leg was rubbish. It is a show that deserves to sink without a trace and I hope its newfound topicality won't prolong its run.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Saturation Point

Something strange has happened. I don’t want anything for Christmas.

Various relatives have been asking what I would like for Christmas and I can’t think of anything. At a push, I can probably think of a couple of DVDs that I wouldn’t mind, but nothing I’m really that bothered about. And even stranger, I don’t want any more clothes.

I feel as if I have enough of everything already.

Obviously a bigger house, a top range camera, a round-the-world trip and a speed boat (have I ever mentioned that I’m great at driving speed boats? I am) would be welcome, but in the realm of small material things, I have enough.

There is one exception. Books. I could never have too many books. But part of the joy of books for me is the thrill of hunting them down, on ReadItSwapIt, at the library or browsing in bookshops, particularly the ones on Charing Cross Road. Giving someone a list of books on Amazon to buy for me would take away part of the pleasure.

The OH and I have never really gone in for ostentatious gifts and have never gone into debt over Christmas (or anything other than the mortgage) but this year he feels pretty much the same as I do, that it is pointless spending for the sake of it, so we are cutting back. It isn’t anything to do with the credit crunch, but we’ve reached saturation point.

As for everyone else, I’m thinking that I might be happier with another year’s sponsorship of a dog, even if the quarterly magazine often reduces me to tears.

I remember as a child finding it hard to understand that my parents didn't really want anything for Christmas (we always ignored this and bought them something), but now I can understand it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Numbers speak for themselves

The nagging thought that people in this country have their priorities wrong seemed to be confirmed by two stories in the newspaper yesterday.

Very different stories, but both involving the outraged public using online petitions to voice their concerns.

The story of baby P, perhaps the most harrowing disturbing story to hit the news in a long time. Something went terribly wrong with the system so social services failed to step in to prevent the awful abuse that led to the child's death.

5,000 people have signed a petition demanding an inquiry into how this happened.

The story of X Factor Contestant Laura, perhaps the most inane story to hit the news in a long time (or since something similar happened). Something went terribly wrong with the system so the wrong person was kicked off the television "talent" show.

50,000 people have signed a petition demanding an inquiry into how this happened.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Loop

I went to a concert last week with Girl A. At the concert we meet up with another friend of mine Girl B and Boy X. Girl A and Girl B know each other through me and I know Boy X through Girl B. Girl A and Boy X had not met before.

However during the course of the evening, Girl A and Boy X took a liking to each other. Girl B (who is happily married to someone else) didn’t seem to too pleased about this and decided to leave, to “get Boy X away from Girl A.

This week, I receive an email from Boy X asking if it would be ok for him to ask Girl A out for a drink. He had cc-ed the email to Girl B. I asked Girl A and she was pleased so I passed her email address on to him.

A few hours later, I had an email from Girl A demanding to know if I’d passed on her details because he hadn’t been in touch. I told her to be patient. Then Girl B emailed to ask if I knew whether they were going out yet. I told her that I had passed on the email address and that was all. She then replied saying “Keep me in the loop”.

This morning, there was an email from Boy X thanking me for sorting things out and then another from Girl A asking if Boy X knows that she has been married. I don’t know what he knows about her. I've not said anything other than pass on her email.

I’m not going to keep Girl B in the loop. I don’t want to be in the loop myself. If they go out and like each other, that’s great. But otherwise I don't want to be kept informed. Its getting awkward already.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Words

Three clever words I've heard this week that I understand, but have never used myself
  • Atrophy
  • Synergy
  • Paradigm

A newly invented word I came across for the first time

  • webinar (a seminar that takes place online)

The Race to the White House

If I was American I would probably vote Democrat because I tend to be left-leaning (in politics, not posture). So I am pleased that Obama won, but not a jubilant as everyone else seems to be. The right man may have won (only time will tell) but I don’t think he won for the right reasons.

Lots has been written and said about how historic it is that a black person has won, I don’t think quite as much progress has been made as people think. It is great that millions of white people weren’t deterred by the colour of his skin, but there is a flipside. An unprecedented turnout of black voters who felt they had someone they could now vote (from comments on the news and on the internet) suggests for many race was the only issue. If they won’t vote for white candidates, have things really changed that much? Of course white people don’t have the terrible history of being slaves or more recent segregation, but it is still racism if a black person won’t vote for someone because of their skin colour.

The fact is that Obama has more in common with Bush and other white politicians than he has with the majority of the people who voted for him. I find it worrying that people will only vote for someone who they perceived themselves to have something in common with, rather than who will do the best for them (this isn't necessarily going to be the same). I don't need a white working class woman from the north east to stand for election to consider voting.

Furthermore, from what I’ve seen of him, I quite liked John McCain but think he received some bad advice along the way in his campaign. He displayed a great amount of dignity in defeat which I think was a truer reflection of the man. He mainly suffered from the fact that people wanted change (and by change, I don’t mean that they didn’t want a white person in charge). He is from the same party as the current president and the economy is in a state so no matter who stood on either side, I think “the other party” would have won. The same is true here – the Conservatives will win the next election, not because of the charisma of David Cameron (I’ve seen bits of cardboard with more charisma), but because they aren’t Labour.

So, yesterday was a historic day, but I think some perspective is needed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Staying In

One of my myriad of faults is that I’m scared of missing out on something. This means I’m usually the last to leave the pub just in case something interesting happens and I rarely turn down invitations just in case something is amazing. This goes double for anything I’m invited to that happens to be free.

In the last week, this policy has meant that I was out five nights in a row.

Thursday night – launch party of a vodka bottle (free)
Friday night – pub for friend’s birthday
Saturday night – cinema and meal
Sunday night – work awards ceremony (free)
Monday night – benefit concert

This might be fine if you are twenty-something, but I’m not and even if my mind won’t accept it, my body is there to remind me.

Yesterday, I was exhausted and craving a night in. Then I was offered a ticket to the James Bond Premiere tonight. I deliberated all day. The devil on one shoulder shouting “It is free. It is glamorous. You wouldn’t want to miss out” whilst the angel on the other said “look the last one was rubbish, there is nothing glamorous about sitting in a cold cinema in posh dress waiting around for hours for the queen and you don’t like Bond films anyway”.

In the end I didn’t accept the offer, which is progress for me. As evening approaches I’m glad I’m going to be spending it with the OH, my sofa and television, but a little bit of me still thinks “what if it is really great?”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My October

Aware that I have been silent again for most of the month, a quick round-up.

I have:

Volunteered at an independent film festival again which consisted of;

  • Lots of crowd control (aging session musicians are the worst)
  • Seeing 3 features, 12 shorts and 5 documentaries
    Drinking free cocktails made from Tuaca (tastes nice but lethal)
  • Being in the same room as celebrities of various degrees including; Faye Dunaway, Mark Benton, Richard Hawley and Corey Fieldman
  • Meeting Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys

Joined another library because the 200,000 book in my Borough aren't enough

Contemplated becoming a documentary film maker

Learnt how to prepare for and deal with a terrorist attack

Continued to dodge the Lucky Heather Sellers

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Lucky Heather

I’m accustomed to weaving my way between Big Issue sellers, Chuggers and Living Statues in my lunch hour, but recently their ranks have been joined by another group looking for money; Lucky Heather Sellers.

Whilst you might be moved to give money to the Big Issue sellers or the fundraisers (encouraging those living statues is inexcusable), I’ve yet to see anyone parting with their money to a Lucky Heather Seller. When I’ve been feeling particularly glum, I have contemplated it, wondering if that is what is wrong with my life, but I’ve never actually succumbed. Ever the rationalist, I realise that if I want to change my life, I have to do something more about it than purchase a dried up weed from a buxom woman who accosts me in the street. Luck does play a part in most successes, but I doubt this product comes with a guarantee.

So I’ve ruled out buying it. But what about selling it? Is this a profitable business? The outlay is presumably pretty small (you could pick plants growing in the wild for free), but it is labour intensive, hanging around the street all day haranguing passers-by. My haranguing skills aren’t up to much anyway. Another career change ruled out.

Election Obsession

Not that I have any say in at all but I've found it fascinating so far. I've also become rather obsessed with The Daily Show and this bit about undecided voters is the funniest thing I've seen on television in ages (admittedly you don't many laughs in the endless crime shows I normally watch).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A wish come true

Today I got my wish and went swimming in the rain.

It wasn’t as great as I’d thought it would be.

In my mind, there would be big fat raindrops, but a blue sky and perhaps even a rainbow. In reality, the rain was persistent but fine, the sky was white with rain yet to fall and the surrounding buildings were drabber than ever. The poolside walk was treacherous and I nearly slipped. A light steam rose from the heat of the water and the palm trees swayed in the breeze.

The rain continued for my whole swim but after the first few lengths, once I was properly wet, I didn’t really notice it that much.

I’ve got a night out tomorrow that I’m really looking forward to – I hope it isn’t as much of an anticlimax as the rain swimming.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why I still hate BT

Considering the problems I've had with BT in the past, I wonder why we decided to go with them when we decided to switch broadband providers? The main reason was that a comparison website didn't give any provider more than 4 out of 10, and BT came out top, although hardly with flying colours. 4 out of 10 is a failure mark regardless of how liberal your marking system is.

So two weeks after the switchover date between providers which promised minimum disruption to your service, we still have no broadband. What we have had is:

8 phonecalls from me to their call centres, most of which lasted around 45 minutes due to their systems not working
3 pointless call backs from their call centres, all optimistically starting the conversation with "Your broadband is working now, yes?"
Instructions to press the "Restart" button x 1000
2 new BT hubs
2 visits from engineers, one who reported a fault on the line, the other who diagnosed the hub as faulty.
2 days off work to wait in for said engineers
and today a bill for the broadbroad service!!!!!

If a miracle hasn't occurred and the service started up when I return home tonight, I have to call them again tomorrow. I don't think I can face explaining the situation again or pressing that Restart button again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

You Take the Low Road

and I'll take the train, and I'll be in Scotland before thee?

I'm off to Scotland for work today. I'm hoping I might see something beyond my hotel and the theatre foyer.

Then I'm heading south to the North which may be geographically impossible but makes sense to me. I'm there for my oldest friend's wedding, where once more I will a bridemaid.

Today's Burning Issue: Green

If you were green (skin colour, not environmentally friendly) what colour clothes would you wear?

(Inspired by a theatre trip to see "Wicked" last night, where the green central character favoured green clothes, which I didn't think was the best choice. She did later move onto wearing black once she'd become a wicked witch)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Oddly Familiar

I was browsing for boots yesterday (I don't think my black ones will last another winter, but I'm constantly drawn to tan boots which I don't really need another pair of), when I noticed a woman doing something rather strange.

She was trying on a pair of boots and looking the mirror to see what they looks like, but as well as looking at herself from different angles, she was also holding her hair back with her hand so she could see how the boots look with different hairstyles! Now logically, what difference does your hairstyle make to whether a pair of boot suit you?

But while I found her behaviour strange, I realised that this is something I do.

And its even odder when I do it, because I never go out in public with my hair tied back.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Welsh Situationist Punk Band

There's a phrase you don't hear on a daily basis. But we heard it on Friday night when we saw the Manic Street Preachers play. This is how they described themselves.

I've never been a fan of the Manics. I didn't hate them particularly but I didn't love them and they seemed to inspire that weird obsessive fandom that scares me a bit. So what was I doing watching them on Friday night?

It was a concert at the Royal Festival Hall, part of the Heavenly Forever series. The headline act was Doves, who I do like a lot but what led to us buying tickets was the promise of Very Special Guests. We consulted the list of who was already confirmed for other nights and who had been on the Heavenly label. And jumped to the conclusion that it could only be either The Chemical Brothers or Flowered Up.

So we bought tickets, and then it was announced that it was the Manics. They had released six songs on Heavenly Records before selling out (as they admitted themselves) and so would play those six songs, and those six songs only.

They opened with "Motown Junk" which I didn't recognise from the OH's rendition of it but knew as soon as the band started playing it. They also played "We Her Majesty's Prisoners" which apparently they'd wanted to call "Ceremonial Rape Machine". They ended with "You Love Us" which sounded a lot better than I'd remembered it but perhaps it was because I felt nostalgic.

Doves were excellent, and the first support band Cherry Ghost were pretty good too, but I was still a little disappointed that Flowered Up weren't on.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Low Level Decadence

Today I've worn a silk dress for work. It is quite a casual dress for something made from silk (its dull silk, not the shiny stuff), but the luxury decadent feeling I've had all day from wearing it has been unexpectedly wonderful.

I highly recommend it.

Probably just to female readers. For male readers wearing a silk dress to work, even on a Friday would probably be high level decadence and who knows where that may led.

I perhaps look like the less shrill long-lost daughter of Kate Bush. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Excuses Excuses

There hasn’t been much in the way of posts here recently because

a) I’m trying to save some money so am not really doing anything worth writing about at the moment
b) I’ve stopped reading the newspaper on my morning commute because it depresses me so I can’t rant about current affairs
c) We are in the process of switching broadband provider and inevitably it isn’t going smoothly so I’m without connection at home,

Just so that you know...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Overheard Conversations No. 4

In the office today. I can see Colleague 1, but Colleague 2 is round a corner.

Colleague 1 (in an incredulous tone) "You bubble wrap your bananas?"
Colleague 2 (as if everyone does) "Of course I do"

And shifting from my seat, I see that Colleague 2 is indeed carefully wrapping her bananas in bubble wrap.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Things were better then

I can see myself becoming one of those old people who constantly talks about how much better things were in the past. I'll say things like "That wouldn't have happened when I was young" and start conversations with "In my day..." I accept this. but early in the week I experienced an extreme longing for the past.

We went to the Natural History Museum.

I found out that hippos roamed where Trafalgar Square is and there was a Woolly Mammoth from Ilford!

I wish there were still hippos in Trafalgar Square, they could wallow in the fountains. And Mammoths in Ilford could only be an improvement on much of the current population. Things were definitely better then.

My Sanctuary

I've been feeling blue this week and nothing could lift the gloom. But then yesterday, the sun was shining, so I was able to sit in my garden, amongst my tomato plants and read.



I love my garden, it calms and comforts me and I felt much better. Even though this morning there has been rain and thunder, I'm grateful for that one last day of summer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Time Capsule

Inspired by the forthcoming display of one of Andy Warhol's Time Capsules at the Hayward Gallery, Bryan Appleyard wrote a piece in the Sunday Times this week about what would go in a time capsule to represent 2008.


I'm fascinated by time capsules, perhaps because I contributed to one myself when I was about 10. It was our school's centenary and it was decided that a time capsule would be created, to be opened in another 100 years. I was chosen to do the contribution from my class. For reasons I can't remember I wrote about fashion. This was the Eighties. The piece was accompanied by photographs of me to illustrate the piece. So somewhere there is a time capsule that includes photographs of me in leggings, bat-wing sleeved jumpers, ski-pants and a peach coloured sweatshirt. Not exactly how I'd choose to be remembered.

I discussed the time capsule article with the OH, explaining what was going in their 2008 capsule.

“I love time capsules. We should do one” he said.
“What would you put in it” I asked
“A tin of won ton soup” he replied

A little while ago, he decided to try tinned won ton soup, over enthusiastically ordered multiple cans only to find that he didn’t really like it. He is working his way through it on evenings when we aren’t inclined to cook or there isn’t much else in the cupboard, but still a few cans remain.

He couldn’t think of anything else he’d like to add and for the moment nor can I. So I don’t think we’ll be doing our own time capsule at the moment.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

As the Olympics draw to a close

My favourite athletics related song. Belle and Sebastian "Stars of Track and Field".

Monday, August 18, 2008

2 down 1 to go (or 1 down 2 to go)

The first refers to the number of the summer weddings we’ve been to out of the three we are invited to.

The second is my mother’s perspective since her middle daughter out of three was married on Saturday.

The first wedding was two weekends ago. A countryside setting, with drinks in the parents’ garden, a marquee, a speech that name dropped Jacqueline du Pre and in sharp contrast, a DJ-set by my OH that involved a medley of Chas and Dave records.

The second wedding was my sister’s this weekend, which was a very different affair, but none the less still lovely. Despite being in the rain-soaked North, the weather was bright for most of the day. The little bridesmaids were cute, but proved the rule of “never working with animals and children”.

As the OH once said in a Best Man's Speech "Weddings are emotional occasions. Even the cake is in tiers". I came close to tears no fewer than three times during the day. The first was in the morning when we were all in our dresses ready for the photographer. I was banished to the kitchen to avoid setting my sister off, only to find that my other sister was already in there trying not the cry as well.

The second time was during the speeches, where my sister made the unconventional move of doing a speech, mainly with the purpose of thanking our mother for giving her away and how it was a shame our father wasn’t there to do it. The OH held my hand to see me through that, and luckily the Groom gave his hilarious speech next that cheered us up.

The third was when they did their first dance. My sister has a great love of show tunes, so it was “All Ask of You” from The Phantom of the Opera. Not a song I had any great love for, but again the tears started to fall. The Groom’s father was so overcome by this that he had to go outside.

The only bad point of the day was the Groom’s mother’s hair. For some reason known only to herself and the world’s worst hairdresser, her hair had been badly dyed purple for the occasion. It was so bad that on seeing from a distance, the Groom had asked why she was wearing a stupid hat! It really will be a blight on the photographs, but perhaps Photoshop can make it a normal colour.

We have a few weeks off now until the third wedding.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It’s really really grim up North

A right of centre think tank has declared that some Northern cities can not be regenerated and the inhabitants could consider moving to the south. (see here)

When I first heard this story on the news this morning, I laughed. The cities mentioned were Liverpool, Bradford and Sunderland. It seems a bit of a kick in the teeth and rather ironic considering that Liverpool is the European City of Culture this year. I’ve never been to Bradford so couldn’t possible comment. The third city is what made me laugh though.

Sunderland is near enough to being my hometown. I didn’t live there, but I went to school there, I support their football team and (perhaps most importantly) this is where I went out in my teenage years.

The report says: "Sunderland demonstrates just how hard it is to regenerate such a city. It is time to stop pretending there is a bright future for Sunderland and ask ourselves instead what we need to do to offer people in Sunderland better prospects."

To be honest, Sunderland doesn’t have much to recommend it, but hometowns are like families – it is fine for you to mock them yourself, but you don’t want to hear anyone doing it. Newcastle has a certain glitz and even something resembling cosmopolitan about it these days, but not so Sunderland. Actually I’m making an assumption, because on my fleeting visits to the north, I’ve not set foot in Sunderland in years. There isn’t anything there really and while money was poured into making Newcastle what it is today, Sunderland was left to rot (this is a source of local animosity as well as the football rivalry).

So is Sunderland beyond saving? I got out of there 11 years ago and did exactly what the report suggests people there do, move to London, Oxford or Cambridge. The jury is still out on whether that was a good move in my case, but I can’t see it is a viable solution for most people. Beside most people being very happy in the north, I don’t think we’ve got much more room down here.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Quiz Call Recall

When I'm on my own, I have a habit of falling asleep with the television on, and often my dreams merge with what is on the television, and I wake up unsure of what was real and what was imagined.

I had been watching Law & Order on Channel 5, but the next programme is that awful Quiz Call. It seems to be broadcast at a louder volume than other programmes, the presenter shouts enthusiastically in the hope that someone on a better programme might rescue her. People ring in to guess things and win some money. Beyond that I don't quite understand the rules, it often sounds as if the presenter is making them up as she goes along, but then I've never actually watched it with my eyes open for more than a few minutes.

From what I (and probably most of the street) heard of it last night, it was film titles they had to guess. That seems likely enough. But I also thought there was a section where it was book titles, but I think I may have dreamt this bit. One contestant was saying "The Human Stain" by Philip Roth, and the presenter kept asking him to repeat it and saying she didn't know what he meant, that she hadn't heard of it, and he was repeating the title over again and saying "you know by Philip Roth" and then she just cut him off and went to the next contestant.

Did this really happen or did I dream this part? Its just that I read something about this book the other day so perhaps it was in mind, and (no offence if you are a regular on the show) it seems a bit too high brow for a reference on Quiz Call.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Cursed

I’m cursed with an excellent long term memory. I can remember every detail about events from years ago. I can remember whole conversations I had with people I’ve not seen in over a decade, what they were wearing and what I was wearing.

What use is this to me? Absolutely none whatsoever (unless I need to write my memoirs later in life which seems unlikely).

It is a curse. It makes it far too easy to dwell on the past, nobody else ever remembers these things and I look like an obsessive for remembering everything.

On the other hand, I have what the OH refers to as my “skipping mind”, a shockingly bad short-term memory and an infuriating absentmindedness. I can't remember what I walked into the room to do, but I can tell you in detail about things that happened in 1994.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer in the City

I love London in the sunshine and each year I fall a little bit more in love with the city in the summer.

Although I've been here nearly 12 years now, when the sun is shining, I feel like I'm on holiday as it is so different from what passes for summer where I'm from. Even walking down the road near where I live feels like being somewhere exotic when the sun is out.

Lots of people moan about the tube being unbearable in the heat, but really there is so many great things about London in the summer that more than compensate for this discomfort. In the past couple of weeks, I've drank sangria in a park listening to dance music from around the world, I've picnicked at a Jazz Festival, swam outdoors, and wondered around like a tourist with my camera.


This week, I've been enjoying free lunchtime concerts in Victoria Embankment Gardens. The easy-going sounds of Gershwin played by a happy quartet. An old man dances along. Japanese tourists rest for a while to take in the music. Workers eat their lunch and chat to colleagues. I lounge in a deckchair, with my book.

This is what contentment is.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gone to the Dogs

Walthamstow Dog Track to be precise.

I’d never been to a dog track before, the OH is from Walthamstow and it is closing down soon. So when a group of friends said they were going on Saturday night, I was rather enthusiastic about it.

Sadly, I was disappointed.

It was far too crowded and it was very hot, so moving about was a huge effort. People looked like they were melting in the heat.

I had hoped to visit the information stall about adopting retired greyhounds (wishful thinking) but I didn’t get anywhere near it due to the congestion.

I only bet on one race and lost.

The best bit thing there was the sign outside of the stadium, but annoyingly I didn’t bring my camera.

No Yellow Jersey for me

I thought I'd make better use of the facilities at the leisure centre I joined having only used the pools. Not quite feeling ready to go to the gym, I had decided that I would go to some of the classes instead.

Quite why I picked "Aerobiking" I don't know. Even less rational was my decision to go for the first time on the hottest stickiest day I can remember. I was hot, bothered and dehydrated before I even got going.

Cycling standing up, cycling sitting down, cycling leaning forward, cycling leaning back, cycling with my arms in the air and cycling uphill.

My legs had turned to jelly by the end, and suddenly the swimming pool looked so inviting that I went for gentle, cooling swim afterwards, glad to be back in my comfort zone.

Today, I still ache.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A rose by any other name

There was a story in the news this week about a New Zealand judge changing a 9 year old girl's name and making her a ward of court. The cruel parents called her Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. What were they thinking?

When I was at home in the north briefly last weekend, I commented on a young child who was playing dangerously in the road. I was informed that he wasn't from the nicest of families.

His name was Dante. Not a name you'd expect from a white Norther family, but it got worse. Dante is one of four children.

Mercedes
Dante
Charisma (this is a girl)

and



Simon!

As boring as it might be, I think Simon had been most fortunate.

(Apologies to anyone reading who is called any of these names, but they aren't traditional working class northern names and sound particularly daft in this context. Elsewhere, I'm sure they are fine.)

Overheard Conversations No. 3

Waiting for a bus last night on my way back from the local Jazz Festival, two young women walk past me.

"The thing is with my grandparents is that they are the perfect size, so its not like..."

I didn't hear the rest. If I didn't have bus to catch, I would have followed as I was curious to understand what she meant. I didn't realise there was a perfect size for grandparents.

I've heard of children boasting that "my dad is bigger than yours" but never "my gran is a better size than yours".

Can anyone enlighten me?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

No More Odysseys

As I’ve got older I go out less, or rather the going out I do is different. Whereas in the past it would have been bars and clubs, these days its more likely to be cinemas and restaurants. And I really don’t mind that most of the time. I haven’t had the interest or energy for clubbing for a good number of years.

But occasionally I do miss those epic nights out, those ones that you only have when you are young, where the night takes you on an adventure, where you end up somewhere entirely differently from where you planned and meet weird characters along the way.

Last night I saw a film that made me think about these nights out. “Wrong Numbers” was the low-budget debut by Alex Holdridge who directed “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” which I loved. It was about one of those epic nights, following two 19 year olds quest for alcohol. It was perhaps a juvenile story, but well-written and acted and I’m not so old as not remember what those nights were like.

You just don’t have these kinds of nights out when you’ve got a mortgage and a (semi) serious job. You go where you intended to, you have enough money to get home and you stick the friends you came with.

Gone are the nights of;

  • Drinking syrup-like real ale from a beer festival because everywhere else is closed (me)

  • A homeless man vomiting in your car (characters in Wrong Numbers)

  • Going to the wake of a stranger to continue drinking (me)

  • Attempting to steal beer from a shop by just running out with it (characters in Wrong Numbers)

  • Ending up in a cabaret club hosted by a Japanese transexual that you've never been able to find since (me)

  • Being lured into a religious group's meeting on the promise of drink (Wrong Numbers)

  • Walking home barefoot from a club and buying a freshly baked loaf from the bakers at 6am (me)
Actually it is probably for the best because while they are happening, those nights rarely feel much fun.

One ticked off the list

I'm a list addict. I can't get enough of them. I've recently discovered the "1001 Books to Read Before You Die" (a feeble 9% read) and "1001 Films to See Before You Die" (a not great 24% seen). I haven't got around to the "1001 Albums" list yet - I'm too busy reading books and watching films.

I've mentioned our office works of art before, mainly to moan that I'm not a fan. Then yesterday, we had a woman arrange to come to the office specifically to see one of our pieces, because it is in the book "1001 Paintings to See Before You Die".

It had to be removed from the wall in our Chief Executive's office and brought down to reception for her to view it. She was apparently very pleased to have seen it and quizzed our operations manager on how much he knew about it (nothing) and how often he allowed himself to ponder it (never).

It is "The Edge of Night" by David Austen. It is a black square canvas with a blue line in the middle. I don't have any strong feelings towards it one way or another, although I do wonder if we could make a little money on the side by charging people to look at it.

I've definitely seen Picasso's "Guernica" too, so I can't have more than 999 left to see.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No Rain

Without presuming to put myself at the centre of the universe, I think I have the ability to bring on droughts.

Since I started the outdoor swimming, I've really wanted to swim in the rain. The summer weather has been changeable. There have been frequent outbreaks of rain and some absolute downpours.

And yet whenever I go swimming, it never rains. I have been swimming outdoors 23 times and not one drop of rain has fallen during those times.

I have even walked there in the rain, only for it stop once I reach the pool, then resume again when I'm returning to the office.

As superhero powers go, the "ability to stop rain by swimming" is pretty lame.

The Demise of the Muffin

In the interest of clarity, I should have perhaps called this post, The Demise of the English Muffin, but out of stubborness, I didn't.

It has come to my attention that the word Muffin has now come to mean what we used to call an American Muffin. That is an individual sweet cake with a distinctive top and stem shape, often flavoured with chocolate or blueberries. But it wasn't always this way.

We had our own muffins, it didn't need to be described as English and those other things, were called cakes.



I was musing this recently (my mind being a strange place) and it transpired that my own OH didn't even know what a muffin was. After half an hour of failing to describe one to him, I determined to educate him. I bought a packet and served it toasted. He liked it but now insists on having it with Marmite, which I find rather wrong.

So muffins have made it onto our monthly shop, which we do online. Only this time, they are all out of muffins (have I somehow started a revival?) and send crumpets instead. I like crumpets, but they aren't the same thing, and it may be a bread product too far for the OH.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dungeons and Depravity

Apart from associations with the-Ex who was living there when we split up and as far as I know, is still there now, York conjured up images of cobbled streets and tea shops, a refined, gentile place. This York was no where to be seen at the weekend. The York of this weekend was one of glittery 80s clubs, low quality champagne, Wetherspoon's pubs and feather boas that shed feathers at an alarming rate.

And a strip-a-gram who looked like Gavin Hensen made into a cube shape.

It was a lowest common denominator, cliche of an event. It wasn't my cup of tea and to commensate I took refuge in way too much of the cheap champagne because drinking is something I've had a certain amount of experience of, whilst standing on tables, showing my underwear was (and still is) outside of my realm of experience.

The one genuine (good clean fun as opposed to seedy fun?) part of the weekend was the visit to York Dungeon. We'd arranged to be the last tour in and have (yet more) champagne served to us in there. I'm not normally scared by this sort of thing, but even I was jumpy with nerves half way through it.

I love my friend and some of the other girls were great, but it did remind me why I'm more often, happier living in London than I would be in the North.

Still at least, I didn't bump into the-Ex.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hen Dos and Don'ts

Hello. Apologies for the silence. I've been preoccupied with something and didn't feel like talking, even to myself on the internet, but I'm coaxing myself out of it and thought I'd post the overdue hen report. Actually there isn't really much to report, but I should write something.

The T-Shirt
At 6am in Newcastle airport, wearing a t-shirt printed with the slogan "Hen Do" was actually pretty subtle. There were girls in tutus, a large party dressed in what I hope was meant to be bad taste and several stags in silly garb. We also had to wear it for our "big" night out on the Saturday. Again, it was pretty tasteful compared with the hens in bondage, the stags as superheros and the cowgirls.

The Accommodation
It really wasn't as bad as my sister had feared, except (and this is probably a pretty big except) there was an overwhelming smell in the corridors that I can only describe as chemical fish. We never quite managed to work out what it was or where it was coming from, except it wasn't so bad on the day that the cleaners didn't come round, so we thought they might be using some fish-based detergent.

The Pool
Before I went I was on an excercising binge and it continued well into the first day of the trip when I swam loads and tried to start an aqua aerobics class in the pool. My plans to get up early for morning swim were scuppered not by too much alcohol, but by the policy of locking the gates to the pool until 10am.

There really wasn't any scandal or gossip. There weren't any fallings out although by the time I came home I was looking forward to some time to myself. I'm off on another one this weekend though, this time to York.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Vive España (Part 2)

Tomorrow I’m off to Spain. Not to congratulate the team in person on their football win, but for my sister’s hen do.

Our destination isn’t Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville or any other place that I’d have welcome the chance to go to. Our destination is the Costa del Sol.

Months ago when it was being planned, my sister’s opening line about it was “Now I know this won’t be your kind of thing but…” Of course, I was always going to go, although jokingly I did say that I couldn’t guarantee that I would enjoy myself.

I was looking forward to it (you’ll notice the use of the past tense here). A few days in the sun with my sisters (and a few complete strangers) sounded quite nice. Even on the Costa del Sol, I should be able to have sangria and tapas.

Then last week, my sister informs me that she has had some t-shirts printed with “D’s Hen Do 2008” and mine has the word “Bridesmaid” on the back. I questioned the need for the year on the t-shirt as it implied that it might be an annual event but they had already gone to print. Apparently we are all wearing our t-shirts on the journey. “At least you won’t get lost”, smirked the OH.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Vive España (Part 1)

I was incredibly pleased by Spain's Euro win last night.

I had declared my intention to support Spain before the tournament even began, but I didn't really expect them to win it. I'd picked them mainly because they are usually under-achievers. The OH at the same time had backed Germany, quoting one of his father's favourite mottos of "Never bet against the Germans".

So we had "our" final. And "my" team won!

I must say I've enjoyed this tournament more than any since Euro 96. It was better without England and I think I might stick with Spain from now on.

Indulgence

Yesterday, I spent the day at the Sanctuary Spa. It was part of my Christmas present from the OH, but it has taken me this long to pick a good time to go.

When I “checked in” I was a bit sceptical as the reception area was swarming with chattering women and I wondered how on earth it was going to be relaxing with this noise. But thankfully, once inside the spa, people were dispersed so it was actually pretty tranquil for most of the day (an exception being the morons in the restaurant who thought that the “no mobile phone rule” didn’t apply to them and also were claiming it was an infringement on their human rights not being allowed to smoke in the spa!)

For my treatment, I had an “Indulgent Egyptian Body Wrap”, where I was scrubbed, oiled, wrapped in cling film and left to stew on a water bed type thing. Later I also had a “Sleep Retreat” which involved lying on a gently vibrating bed, listening on headphones to instructions to picture yourself in a garden with a wall and a well. It was possibly hippie nonsense and it would have been easy to scoff, had I not fallen into a slumber.

My trip also included a two course meal which was delicious and my inability to decide between a starter and a dessert was overcome by the option to have a starter as a main. So I had poached eggs with asparagus spears, followed by bread pudding with whisky ice cream. Again the only word for it is indulgent!

Amongst all of this indulging and relaxing, I did manage to fit in quite a bit of exercise. I found myself having the pools to myself quite often so I had a good swim (it being women only, there were lots of people who didn’t want to get their hair wet so the pools weren’t that well used). As much as I love my outdoor pool, this was an altogether calmer experience. I even went on the “famous Sanctuary rope swing”, as they refer to, I’ve no idea whether it is famous beyond the world of their marketing materials.

To round of the day, I treated myself to a glass of bucks fizz, which I sipped while watching swimming carp.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa

Tuesday was the next instalment of the old men gigs, Primal Scream and MC5. Two gigs in one week! It is like I’m young again!

The Scream were good, perhaps not the best I’ve ever seen them but certainly not the worst. It was quite a short set consisting of several new songs (sounding quite good) and mainly stuff from XTMNTR.

Then the MC5 came on. “He wasn’t in them originally” pointed out the man next to me as a man in his forties came on stage “He’s far too young”. The original members (the MC3?) were quite obvious when they appeared. They were joined by a young(ish) lead singer who I’ve scoured the web for information on but still have no idea who he is, but he knew how to work the crowd. They go their “hit”, “Kick Out the Jams” out of the way a bit too early, and it did perhaps go on a bit too long in places (the drum solo wasn’t necessary) but you couldn’t fault them for energy.

Then what we’d really come for happened, Primal Scream joined the MC5 on stage. Suddenly each band member had a partner, so there was two singers, six guitarists (including the bassists), two drummers etc. It was like a musical ark!


It was brilliant. They were all enjoying it so much. Bobby Gillespie looked like all of his birthdays had come at once and was transformed from a 40-something into a delighted 12 year old boy. His bad dancing went into overdrive. The highlight was when they all played “Moving On Up” together which was so good.

Then, which I wasn’t expecting at all, John Sinclair, came on stage and did some poetry type thing over a jazzy saxophone. The OH said he would have preferred it if he’s just come on and waved, but I liked it, it fitted well with the evening of legends, given that Don Letts was the night’s DJ.




The Flickr Game


The Flickr Game, originally uploaded by sanddancer1.

The concept:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker.

The Questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.

(idea taken from Bibbity-Bob)

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Letter "P"

This weekend was brought to me by the letter "P"

"P" was for:

Pear Cider
Pixie Geldof
Pizza
Polishing
Park
Penalties

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gazing at my shoes, ringing in my ears

Last night was the first of my series of gigs by older bands - My Bloody Valentine at the Roundhouse.

It reminded me of watching The Chart Show back in the early 90s when the three specialist charts (rock, dance and indie) would rotate and I'd eagerly anticipate the indie week. Back then alot of the indie (and dance) acts couldn't afford to make videos so The Chart Show would play their song accompanied by a swirling graphic. My Bloody Valentine were very much of that era (of a supposed scene and sound given the name "shoegazing") and whilst they evidently did have some videos, they weren't that much different from The Chart Show's graphics.

The music and the visuals last night took me back to those Saturday mornings in my teenage years.

This is what it looked like, and it sounded just like it looks.

It was ethreal, blurry and above all else incredibly noisy. My ears are still ringing now from the blaze of feedback that ended the show.



Klutz

Yesterday, I had a clumsy day. I was an accident waiting to happen and invariably it did happen.
  • Knocked into the glass doorway with my side on my way out of H&M
  • Banged my head on my desk when I was charging my ipod
  • Slammed my desk drawer closed on my hand when I was putting something away
  • Tripped over someone's feet getting off the tube
  • Had my drink kicked over at the concert (actually that one wasn't so much my clumsiness as the person next to me)

Then during the night, I banged my head on the bedside chest of drawers,which has been next to my bed for five years, and I've never banged my head on it before.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fatherless Day

My Dad died three and a half years ago. I'd like to be able to say its getting easier but I'm not sure that would be true. I still feel guilty, lonely and at times utterly lost. I'm not putting him on a pedastal. He wasn't perfect. He could be difficult, petty and stubborn. At times, he perhaps wasn't even that good a father, but he was mine.

He still appears in my dreams, sometimes I wake up crying, other times I'm happy just to have seen him again, one time recently he turned up in the dream and was being difficult, and I told him that he was behaving ridiculously as he was, afterall, dead.

Father's Day this year has been particularly bad. I'm not sure it has bothered me as much other years as I realise other people still have Father's and have every right to give them cards and gifts, but this year there doesn't seem to have been any escape from it. Every other email I've received in the last week has been from a website suggesting Father's Day presents and I've felt particularly sensitive about it. I was quite close to emailing HMV to tell them that even if he had been alive, he wouldn't have been interested in a brain training game, but as he's dead, he's got even less use for it.

Strangely though when he was alive he was incredibly difficult to buy presents for, but since he's died, at Christmas, around his birthday and Father's Day, I see things in the shops that I think he would like and sometimes I wonder if I was to buy them for him, it might bring him back.

I'd like to be able to write something beautiful in tribute to him, but I don't have the words.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

You Only Get What You Pay For

Scenes from a depressing Birmingham hotel.






What these pictures fail to convey is the uncomfortableness of a room without air conditioning on a hot night on a very busy and noisy street.

Monday, June 09, 2008

To the Midlands!

Such is the cyclical nature of my life and this blog that we’ve reached that time of year again for my annual jaunt to Birmingham. We are not staying the window-less hotel this time, but will be sampling another of Birmingham’s finest budget hotels.

I'm trying to muster some enthusiasm for it by calling it a jaunt, but a traipse would be more accurate. My schedule will be thus:

Train - Hotel - Food - Bed - Venue - Train

Back not soon enough.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Compost was my downfall

I've been really good with exercise this last week, going to a new more intense water workout class on Monday and swimming every week day since. I didn't feell tired or ache. I felt motivated and energised.

Yesterday, I couldn't get to the pool, but I was active with plenty of walking and gardening. This year's tomato plants were long overdue to be repotted so I walked to the shops to buy a sack of compost. And walked back carrying the bag of compost. It is a brisk 20 minute walk, which I managed without too much trouble. The tomatoes are now re-homed in large pots and my garden resembles a tomato farm.

All good, except this morning my arms are very sore. They ache so much that even lifting a mug this morning seems like a chore.

Friday, June 06, 2008

All My World's a Stage

Last year, I only went to the theatre five times. When I say "only" I'm well aware that I still went more an the average person, but I live in London, I work in the industry and do occasionally get free tickets. I even drink out of a "Chicago" mug (as do most people in our office - we were sent a shipment of them).

So one of the things I was determined to do this year was to go to the theatre more. So far, I'm level with last year's record, which is still probably way less than most people in our office, but then I am limited in my choices as (whisper it) I don't really like musicals.

My theatrical experiences this year have been as follows:

Spamalot - I'm aware that this is a musical but it is more Monty Python than musical, and I like Monty Python. This is rather a double-edged sword though, because you have to like Monty Python to enjoy this, but if you like Monty Python, chances are you will already know all of the best jokes.

Ring Around the Moon - A farce about mistaken identity by Jean Anouilh. It was funny, but I couldn't help but think that if I'd been directing it, I'd have done it darker as there was definitely potential in there for the comedy to be blacker. Sadly, as it wasn't a musical or a play starring a big name from television (just lots of good actors), it closed pretty quickly.

Festen - I returned to my old theatre, an amateur place that prides itself on producing to professional standards. I used to do backstage work there but hadn't been back for about four years. I was the youngest person in the audience by about 30 years, although there weren't many in the audience anyway. According to the programme notes, many members had vowed to stay away as they did not like the subject matter - incest basically. It was a good production and I was reassured to find that the old place hadn't changed a bit - I'd worked with the director and a few of the actors back in my time there.

Billy Elliot - I was at the 3rd Birthday Party for the show, which meant it was introduced by the director and there was a special performance at the end by the new set of Billys who are going to New York. The show is excellent, that is undeniable. However, I did have problems with the casting. Its terribly un-pc to even mention this, but in some pieces such as this "colour blind casting" just doesn't work. If you have play set in a precise time and location, especially one in such recent history, to me it looks frankly odd if one member of a family from a white working class area is black. The dialect coach should also be fired. The accents, on the whole, were woeful and kept hopping over the pennines. There were about four people in the cast with a north east accent, and only one with the correct accent for that area. Obviously, being from there, I'm more sensitive to this than the average person. In fact one of the snooty "never been out of London" types in my office said they didn't like it because they couldn't understand a word that anyone said. But so long as you aren't from the north east but have heard someone who speaks with anything other than an RP accent before, it is a brilliant show.

Fat Pig - A comedy by Neil La Bute starring a trio of people currently very popular in the world of television comedy. This promised more than it delivered. It was entertaining enough for the first half, but after the interval it dipped and it really didn't have anything special to say.

I had the chance to see "Gone with the Wind" but decided that free ticket or not, I didn't fancy sitting there for over three hours.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through...

There is always a busker in the tube station I use when I go home from work. Occasionally they are terrible, occasionally they are excellent (in which case, I may even give them some money) but usually they are just ok. Inoffensive and forgettable.

However, I've noticed over the last few weeks, that on a Thursday it is the same man. The reason I've noticed him in particular is not that he is terrible or excellent. He pretty much falls into the average category. I noticed him because he played the song "The Streets of London". The first time I heard it, I thought "that's a good song for a London busker to play" but then today, on about the fourth time of seeing him play, I've given it some more thought.

Either, it is a huge coincidence that I happen to walk past every week when he's playing that song from his repetoire (I do leave work at roughly the same time every day, but still it seems unlikely). Or that is all he plays.

I don't know how long he is positioned there, but even if it is just one hour, that means playing that song about 12 times.

Either he only knows one song (in which case becoming a busker is particularly a poor career choice). Or he is the most cynical busker ever as this is obviously a winner with passers-by.

Surely though just for variety he could play another London-themed song? "London's Burning" might not be a good choice, but there must be others?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Aqua Alfresco

I can’t believe that I’ve been working in central London for over three and a half years and this was the first time I’d gone for a swim in my lunch break. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.

The pool is less than 10 minutes walk from the office and complete with free hairdryers, making it just about doable in an hour. But better than that, it has an outdoor pool.

Swimming outdoors is so much better than swimming inside. Even though the London air isn’t the cleanest, it still feels so much fresher. It was a wonderful sensation. It has been an overcast day with frequent outbreaks of rain (I could be a weather forecaster!) but I was disappointed that it didn’t rain during my time in the pool, because I would have loved the experience of swimming in the rain. I’m not entirely sure whether the outdoor pool remains open during rain showers, but given the unpredictability of our weather, I think it must.

I’m rather smitten with the whole place. It is pretty shabby and the pool is overlooked by the rest of the leisure centre and what look like council flats, all ugly Brutalist concrete structures that I find oddly reassuring.



I intend to go back again tomorrow and for once I’m hoping for rain.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Totally Devoted

Is there anything that you love so much that you have lost all objectivity.? That you would defend to the death, defying all reason and can hear no other side of an argument to?

I don't mean things like "freedom of speech", "democracy" or anything else that we go to war over. I mean is there something that you are a fan of, but that, if you are honest, it has gone beyond that into obsession, fanatism?

The reason I've been pondering this is that in my little bit of freelance writing that I do, I made the mistake of mentioning a certain pop star and the site has since been bombarded with abusive comments and I wouldn't be surprised a death threat was imminent. I'm not going to mention the pop star's name here as it is obvious that these people receive notifications whenever and wherever he is mentioned on the web. All I said was that he was past his best and then the fanatics appeared quoting figures of record sales (since when has that been a mark of quality?) and alternating their messages of hate for me, with their messages of love for him (is he really going to be reading?).

What inspires such blind devotion?

I've given this some thought and there really isn't anything that I feel that passionately about (perhaps I'm missing out?). There are lot of things I love, but not to that extent. Actually, I even feel uncomfortable using the word "love". I love my family, the OH and my friends - feelings I have for a band, television programme, painting or book, aren't the same.

I really like the television programme "The Wire". There was an article in "Sight and Sound" about it recently that wasn't entirely glowing. I agreed with some of their less positive comments (namely the final season wasn't as good as the past ones), other criticisms I didn't agree with, but I've not written to the magazine to complain.

Musically, the band I've liked most consistently for the longest would be Primal Scream, but I will admit that whilst I like their last album, it wasn't as good as their second album, there is at least one album that I don't like at all and a few years back they went through a phase of being dreadful live. I realise they aren't to everyone's taste and I don't now expect to receive abusive comments from other fans on account of these opinions.

Differences of opinion, varying tastes make the world more interesting. And these fanatics are entitled to their opinions too. But its the lack of intelligent, adult debate, the lack of being able to see that someone might disagree with them that I find so hard to understand.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dank

An article in Metro this morning about the Bank Holiday Weekend weather used the word “dank”.

Dank is a great, richly descriptive word that isn’t used enough, although perhaps it is a good thing that we don’t have need to use it more often.

Dank perfectly describes how the weather was – cold, wet, dark and miserable. It also perfectly describes how I’ve been feeling.

I have been feeling dank. In fact, I am still feeling dank.

Hopefully the outlook for the rest of the week will improve.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Hitched Hitch

The wedding season is upon us again. I can tell because the stall near work that once sold fruit, then starting selling t-shirts, it now selling pashminas.


My summer is being dominated by weddings. The OH is best man at one in August. Then I'm bridesmaid for my sister and my oldest friend. With hen weekends and visits for dress fittings, its costing a scary amount - more than our week's holiday in San Francisco, in fact.


So I've been worrying about how I'm going to pay of it all, but reasoning that some of it at least should be fun.

Then I get an email from my sister, distraught.

The hotel she had booked to hold her reception has been sold to another company and is closing for refurbishment. She has had this venue booked for a year. Nobody there told her this was happening. She found out by chance because a friend went there for lunch and overheard staff talking about the takeover. Quite when they were planning to tell her if her friend hadn't stumbled upon this, we don't know.

Tomorrow she has a meeting with the venue to discuss what can be done. I hope some alternative can be found, otherwise its looking like all going back my mother's for the reception. And as much as my mother does put on a lovely a spread, that is certainly not what my sister wanted for a her big day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More Musical Oldies

Following on from my Neil Diamond admission yesterday, I seem to have got myself caught up in a wave of musical nostalgia and whilst I have resisted paying to see Mr Diamond, I’ve found myself lured to see other pop pensioners.

The WonderStuff
They were the first band I ever went to see and at this rate they may well be the last band I go to see, when I see them again in October. You may remember them from the dreadful Vic Reeves collaboration “Dizzy” or the annoying “Size of a Cow” neither of which are particularly representative of the rest of their work. Not that I’m saying the rest of their output was particularly good (an over indulgence on the fiddle being one flaw).

The WonderStuff are a unique band in that they attained a certain level of success but they have never influenced anyone else. No new bands ever cite The WonderStuff as an influence. Nobody ever mentions them as being their favourite band. Their influence has been nil. But they still have some loyal fans, willing to turn up toatch an increasingly bald and overweight frontman and a decreasing number of original band members belt out the old favourites.

Amongst those fans seem to be quite a few of my friends and I will now be seeing them for I think the fifth time. Not only that but my friend who booked the tickets, opted for the VIP tickets which involve meeting the band at a backstage after party. Their frontman, Miles Hunt was surly enough in his youth so I’m struggling to picture him at this “meet and greet”.


An Evening with Primal Scream and MC5
The last time I saw Primal Scream (not counting the time I stalked Bobby on the tube), they were back on form, but I could have probably resisted seeing them again. Until they were put on a bill with MC5. Or what remains of the MC5. I’m not sure if there are many of them left but at least this concert is in June so not too long for the rest of them to hang in.

I really did expect the OH to refuse to go to this one as it means a return to the Royal Festival Hall to see one (or arguably two) bands that are way past their heyday. I didn’t expect him to be too keen on this since he accompanied me to see Roky Erickson last year. But I was wrong.

So in June we will hopefully see both bands on stage together playing Kick Out the Jams.




My Bloody Valentine
Another reformed band, but this time a bit more credible and the OH’s choice. These will probably be pretty good.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Me and Neil

Or as my father would point out if he was alive, “Neil and I.”

The Neil in question is Neil Diamond. I love Neil Diamond. I make no apology for this fact.

He has a new album out this week, produced by Rick Rubins, who revitalised Johnny Cash’s career. Apparently he’s doing the same for Mr Diamond. But in my book, that didn’t need doing. He has written some of the best pop songs ever in the work he did for the Monkees (a band I may have claimed to prefer to the Beatles,)

Whilst to some, he might be in the category of “guilty pleasure”, to me he has never been anything other than great. There may have been a year when grunge ruled my stereo and I may have temporarily forgotten about the majesty of Neil, but for the past decade, his place in my heart has not been questioned.

It must be said I’m from a family of Neil Diamond lovers. Whatever else we may or may not have in common, this one thing is certain. My sisters love him, my mum loves him and my dad loved him. So I grew up listening to him, in the car, on holiday (the song America was on heavy rotation the year we went to Florida!) and watching The Jazz Singer on video.

There is also a lot of poignancy tied in with this. We choose a Neil Diamond song to be played at my dad’s funeral. It was our choice so we’ve nobody else to blame if the even the first note of the song (Songs of Life) can reduce us to tears.

But still I love Neil. I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to go see him play at Glastonbury but I’m still contemplating going to see his Wembley show next month. But as much as I love Neil, £70 seems way too much, no one will go with me and I don’t want to run the risk of flooding the arena with tears. Perhaps I shall just buy the new album instead.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Casting my Clout

Readers not from the north of England or those unfamiliar with its sayings may well be confused by that title. It relates to the saying "ne'er cast a clout til May be out". Roughly translated it means don't stop wearing your thermal vest until May is over. In practice this means that if you dare to walk down the high street before June without wearing a cardigan and mac on a hot day, old women feel they are justified in tutting at you.

Despite it only being the 10th May, I put aside this old warning and , today I made the change over between my summer and winter wardrobes. Away went the jumpers, parka and boots, out came the t-shirts, linen trousers and sandals.

Whilst having this changeover, I learnt the following things:
  • I have a disproportionate number of tops, compared with trousers and skirts
  • For someone who prefers plain clothes in neutral colours, I have an awful lot of strange coloured, heavily patterned clothes
  • For someone who is very clumsy, I have a lot of silk and/or dry-clean only clothes
  • Most of my clothes come from the same four shops
  • There are two items in my wardrobe that I've never worn and doubt I ever will, but I don't feel able to part with them yet
  • There are five things in my wardrobe that I'm keeping for sentimental value
After I'd sorted out the clothes, I hung some towels outside dry. Coupled with having "cast my clout", I feel sure it will now rain.

M. I. A.

The reasons for my prolonged absence were that I was:

Busy at Work
Up North
Busy at Work

It has been hectic but mostly uneventful.

Yesterday, we went to Oxford for the day, for no other reason than it is there and not too hard to get to from here.

The University buildings were beautiful and there were some lovely riverside pubs, but besides that it was disappointingly pretty much like any other place in England.


Busy at Work is likely to remain the case for the next week.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tagged by Thoughts Running Through My Head

I've not been tagged before so I was pleased to receive the invitation, but then I found it difficult to think of anything that I probably haven't mentioned before. I'm also in a fairly navel-gazing reflective mood so I had to try hard not to fall into self-pity!

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to your blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

So here we go:



7 Things about Me.

1. My mother was a Beauty Queen. I look like my father.

2. A male friend once said I was “very funny for a girl” which is both one of the most sexist and nicest things anyone has ever said about me

3. My friend’s dad used to drive us to school in the back of his furniture van. All of the other parents drove BMWs, Porsches and Jaguars.

4. I eat tomatoes every day.

5. The first film I went to see at the cinema without an adult was the Care Bear movie. I got lost going to the toilet and ended up outside on a building site!

6. The first concert I went to was The WonderStuff who played on the badminton courts at my local leisure centre when I was 15.


7. I went to the same school as the reporter Kate Aide (although years later), to university with Cilla Black’s son and work with someone who once dated Jerry Springer.





I am tagging the following:
Brain Drops
Chocolate and Cherries
Cut My Life into Pieces
Mellifluous Dark
Miss Forthright
Melanethos
A Girl in Winter

Monday, April 28, 2008

I love the Southbank

Last week work involved a day working on the Southbank. I arrived far too early to go into my event, but I didn’t mind just ambling around because I love the Southbank. It is especially nice early in the morning when there aren’t too many people about.



I had my camera with me so decided I’d take a few photos. Of course, the views around there are really incredibly touristy. I couldn’t resist taking photographs of Big Ben and the London Eye. Much to my embarrassment, a man stopped me and asked if I wanted him to take a picture of me with the Houses of Parliament in the background. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wasn’t a tourist, so I just said “No, thank you” in a way that I hope sounded like English wasn’t my first language (I’ve been accused of this before anyway) .


Lots of people hate the buildings on the Southbank. Prince Charles ranted about the National Theatre buildings. Admittedly, they aren't the prettiest. But I love them. I think it is possibly because my university (UEA) was designed by the same architect so it feels like home there amongst the Brutalist concrete structures.



I wish I worked there as I feel nothing bad could ever happen and I'd be happy to go to work everyday.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Muñoz, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia and Me

I had been meaning to go to the Tate Modern to see the Juan Muñoz retrospective since it started and then the other week, I realised that it was very nearly finished and I still hadn't been. So today I had to motivate myself into leaving the house on what was a rather grey day and get down to the Tate Modern, which is a bit of a trek with Sunday transport.

There was a combined ticket offer for both the Muñoz exhibition and the Duchamp, Man Ray and Picabia exhibition, so I saw both.



Here are my thoughts:

  • Juan Muñoz is my favourite sculptor (although I can't really think of many more than five sculptors off the top of my head)


  • Some of his work was disturbing, some of it I found soothing, perhaps because it reminds me of home


  • Sometimes seeing work in a gallery isn't the best place for it. I first came across Muñoz's work as a set of his work on the beach in my hometown, and in contrast to that, where the weather, seagulls and public are free to interact with the pieces, sometimes the gallery's restrictive environment didn't feel right.

  • My favourite pieces were "Many Times" (pictured above) and "The Prompter".

  • I didn't like the work of Duchamp before and I still don't. It irritates me.

  • I don't mind a bit of May Ray and Picabia's stuff wasn't bad either

  • I would have been quite tempted by the May Ray Chess Set in the gift shop if either a) I could play chess or b) I thought the OH knew who May Ray was.

  • Overall, the gallery was far too crowded so I didn't look at much of the permanent collections except;

  • Cornelia Parker's "Thirty Pieces of Silver" which was quite stunning

  • In theory, I'm in favour of the major galleries being free but in practice, it leds to overcrowding and people coming with no interest in art whatsoever, namely;


  • Toddlers. The Under-3s tend not to be interested in modern art in my experience. They may like drawing, but they've usually not much time for the surrealism, modernism or any other isms. Yet, there were hundreds of them, mainly being dragged round reluctantly by mothers or in one case, lay spread out in the middle of a gallery surrounded by craft materials and toys, but still miserable. I'm all for introducing children to art but does everything have to be tailored to suit them? They've got swings and ice cream.

Sampling the Local Cuisine

We were having a quick drink the pub next door to the restaurant we were eating in on Saturday. Next to us were two foreign girls, obviously tourists in London, judging by the way they kept taking photos of themselves. They were having some of the pub food and my friend noticed that they were having the "traditional Sunday roast" along with a side order of toast.

Toast with a roast! Apart from the rather pleasing rhyme it seemed a bit of a strange combination. But more than that, the toast was burnt.

Burnt toast with a Sunday roast? It was not offered on the menu - I did check.

Presumably they had requested the toast, but judging by the amount of scraping going on, I don't think they'd requested it burnt or well done. Fair enough, they may have fancied a bit of toast, but what possessed the pub cook to serve it burnt? Why did they consider that acceptable?

Its no wonder English food is mocked by other Europeans if this is what we serve up to tourists.

Friday, April 18, 2008

And now for something completely different…

Let’s come straight to the point with this one. Last night I went to watch darts! Wembley Arena to watch Premier League Darts!

Around Christmas time, I started watching the darts with the OH and found it quite enjoyable. It was easy to follow and quite exciting, plus I was won over by the “characters” of certain players and their showman-like entrances to the arena.

So when tickets went on sale, the OH and his friends thought it would be a good idea to go along and I thought, “Why not? Let’s do something different”.

I was less enthused when I arrived at Wembley Park Station, amongst of throng of geezers, all chanting the Sky Darts Theme Tune (previously known as Chase the Sun). It goes something like this “de, de, de, dou, da, do do de de da”. This was a very different crowd from the sort you get at the theatre.

Inside, we had good seats “on the floor” at a table which meant that we could walk down to where the players made their entrances. This key in watching live darts, as to be honest, the rest of the action, you pretty much have to just watch on the screens, as it is essentially still two men throwing darts at a board, so not really possible to see in detail without the help of the screen no matter how close you are.

The first match was between my favourite Wayne “Hawaii 501” Mardle (who wears Hawaiian shirts and enters to the theme music from Hawaii 50) and Terry “The Bull” Jenkins (who looks like one of the Chuckle Brothers and enters to “Wooly Bully”). It ended in a draw and wasn’t very exciting.

The other games were of better quality although I think I actually prefer watching it at home on the television. The crowd’s behaviour was rather alarming at times – I didn’t like the chanting of “Engerland” when Phil Taylor played Canadian John Part – there was no need for such nationalism and I prefer the John Part anyway, so was tempted to join in with the small voice that shouted “Canadar”. Then a conga started up in one section of the arena, during this match, which was the best of the evening, which I thought was rather odd, that having paid to see the darts, you then miss the best bit by dancing instead.

So I’ve been to see live darts. It was a new experience, but probably not one I’ll be repeating.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Shout at the television time: The Galaxy British Book Awards

My sort of New Year's Resolution to read more didn't get very far (the slow-changing nature of the My Library widget on this page is testament to that), so I probably have no business watching or criticising The Galaxy British Book Awards. But nonetheless...



Like everything else these days, it had been been hijacked by the Micro-Celebrities. The best biography section dominated by tv stars and won by Russell Brand, the "popular non-fiction" award was won by Ewan McGregor and that other bloke with a motorbike, and Katie Price/Jordan was nominated for her book about pony care.



But worse were some of the celebrity presenters. That man Ross popped up again to present the big prize, obviously not content with his BBC millions, he has to appear on Channel 4 too. Geri Halliwell was even worse though. She looked quite nice with her curly hair and pretty dress - "oohh you look just like a fairy" cooed Judy, and I questionned whether a woman pushing 40 should really want to look like a fairy anymore. Then she started talking about her new book that she had coming out soon and how, as all of the other authors in the audiences would know, she felt so proud of it. You could see "the other authors" i.e. the proper ones, who weren't singers/dancers/presenters, bristle at that. She then exclaimed "I love reading!". Nothing more, no indication of what it was she liked to read.



Most awards shows involve actors and they tend to be pretty good at being the magnanamus loser, even if it isn't genuine and they are putting their acting skills into use. Not so the authors. Some of them tried, but none could hide their disappointment and a few especially failed to hide their outright displeasure, especially if the book that beat them was lower-brow than theirs.



Surprisingly, the best bit of the show was the Richard & Judy Book Club Award. Whilst I'm always quick to remove the "Richard & Judy Book Club" sticker if any book I read happens to have been a choice of theirs, I do think it is a good thing, anything that encourages more reading can't be bad. This prize was won by "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini, who gave a brilliant speech about how he hoped one day another writer from Afghanistan would collect this prize, and that it might one day be a woman. I thought I might cry at this point and I've not even read his book, but then I nearly always cry at awards ceremonies.



The entrants in the Best Newcomer category were reassuringly mature, so I suppose there is hope yet that I might write that novel.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Top 5 Worst Films Ever and Top 5 Best London Cinemas

As mentioned below, Funny Games has made it into my worst films ever list. So I thought I'd post a list of them. And for some positivity, I thought I'd do a list of my favourite cinemas. A list of my favourite films is too hard and probably not that interesting/ Worst cinemas doesn't matter as all bad cinemas tend to be bad for the same reasons and I've ranted about that before.

Top 5 Worst Films Ever

Hotel - Directed by Mike Figgis, I had the displeasure of seeing this at the London Film Festival a few years ago. I saw it for free and still felt cheated. It contains split screens, a film within a film, vampires, The Duchess of Malfi and a cast of upteen famous and some good actors, plus Saffron Burrowes who Figgis was dating at the time. It was a mess, it was pretenious, it was terrible. The comments on IMDB for once seem to universally agree on this. The last thing I saw directed by Figgis was those adverts about how to behave on public transport, which I doubt will improve anyone's manners on the bus, but a career high point after this nonsense.

Funny Games - see below for my opinion.

Disclosure - I went to see this with my mother., the only time just the two of us have been to the cinema together since I was a child. Our town had been without a cinema for about a decade, but a new arts centre had opened with a cinema screen and we went to see this at that newly opened venue. There were five people in the screening; us, a couple who sat in the back row kissing and a member of the local council who slept through it all. Unfortunately, we had no such distractions. It is apparently a sexual thriller (a genre sprung from Fatal Attraction and Bacic Instinct that my friend C refers to as "Lick My Gun" films) but it is neither sexy nor thrilling. It has a tacked on virtual reality sub-plot, which made no sense and confused my mother. Even her love of Michael Douglas didn't redeem the film for her and I recall her muttering afterwards about him not being as good as his father anyway.

Ghosts of Mars - Released in the USA as John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, which was actually an accurate title as he seemed to do pretty much everything on the films, writer, director and music. It was pretty obvious that no one else had stepped in and told him it was rubbish. It is a sci-fi, horror western in case you are interested, a mercifully small genre. It stars Jason Statham who if he isn't the world's worst actor, must have taken some lessons since this was made. Like Hotel, I saw this one back when I worked in a different sector and I sometimes got invited to free film screenings. It seems churlish to moan, but that is testament to how bad these films were.

The Horse Whisperer - I went to see this when I lived with a group of girls including a horse-mad Italian. It was her choice. She drove us there. The only reason I didn't get up and leave was because I'd have to get the bus home. It was so dull, even the horse-mad Italian didn't enjoy it. It may have looked good but it was boring, meladramatic, hackneyed and did I mention, it was dull?


Top Five London Cinemas

All of these cinemas show films that go beyond the latest blockbuster, but that is not all.

The Tricycle, Kilburn - you can become a member for a bargain price, it has a great bar/cafe area, comfortable seats sponsored by stars and patrons of the arts.
Screen on Baker Street - possibly the most comfortable cinema seats with plenty of legroom.
Cineworld Haymarket - The only major chain cinema in this list, included for its main screen, a beautiful old auditorium with high ornate ceilings, this is how film viewing was meant to be.
BFI Southbank - Formerly known as the NFT. Great seasons of films, lovely location in one of my favourite parts of London and their "no food or drink except a bottle of water" policy that many think is harsh, but I agree with wholeheartedly. I once watched four films in one day here.
Riverside Studios, Hammersmith - interesting seasons of films, most films are shown as themed double-bills for less than the cost of one ticket in most other cinemas. Another one with a good cafe.

The Electric would have been included before it started pushing itself as an exclusive member's cinema and racked up the prices for non-members (it isn't a members as in supporters club like at other cinemas, but you have to work in the media and/or live in Notting Hill and be approved by a committee).


So what are your worst ever films? And best cinemas in case I'm ever in your area?

Saturday Cinema: "Lars and the Real Girl" and "Funny Games"

We decided to spend Saturday at the cinema. Not one cinema, but two actually. We had a list of five films between us that we wanted to see so thought we'd see two of them. The decision on which we would see was based upon the timings at our favoured cinemas. I also added the suggestion that we shouldn't see more than one film that was likely to be bleak.

So our plan was set with an afternoon showing of "Lars and the Real Girl" at a small independent cinema, followed by an early evening screening "Funny Games" in the more bearable of the localish multiscreen cinemas.

"Lars and the Real Girl" was funny and sweet, prehaps a little silly, but ultimately heartwarming. In case you don't know it is about a man who falls in love with a sex doll! But not in a sexual way at all. He is delusional, brought on by grief and fear of losing people he loves. I shed a couple of tears, not uncontrollable weeping, but a subtle few as things of a heartwarming nature tend to have this effect on me. The cinema was comfortable, the patrons well-behaved which always helps.

Then onto the next cinema. It seems to be a growing trend amongst the chain cinemas to not bother with the box office much and now you have to buy your tickets at the food concession. I don't know why this bothers me (its not as if their box office staff were knowledgeable film fanatics) but it somehow feels wrong to buy your ticket from the popcorn stall. But the selling of popcorn and nachos seems to be a bigger priority on the actual films in many of these places. We were in the minority in our screening in not having a giant bucket of something to eat and the first couple who left during the film, were holding an empty popcorn bucket as if they'd only stayed until the food ran out.

But they weren't the only people to walk out and I only stayed out of stubborness. I must have apologised the OH twenty times afterwards for even suggesting this film. It was dreadful. It has catapulted itself into my Top 3 of Worst Films Ever Made. The following will contain spoilers, but hopefully you'll heed my warning and not watch it, so the spoilers shouldn't matter. The basic plot of the film is about an affluent family arriving at their holiday home, then two young men claiming to be friends of the neighbours call round and end up torturing them.

You don't actually see any of the violence on screen though because, of course, that is not the point. This is a clever film. It is not a violent film, it is a film about violence in films. The intruders talk to the camera, a remote control is used to rewind action and change the outcome of events and they discuss real and unreal universes in a manner rarely seen outside of first year philosophy classes and Richard Linklater films. My reason for hating the films was not that I didn't understand this (I'm not so sure about many of my fellow cinema-goes, who may not have been able to hear much over the sound of their own popcorn munching). But it wasn't hard to grasp as it wasn't done in a subtle way.

Playing with viewers expectations, the viewer as voyeur, violence in films, these are not new subjects. And this film is a direct remake of the director's own early film in German. It was made ten years ago when perhaps it might not have been so unoriginal, although I'm not convinced.

On IMDB, two of its key plot words are listed as Eggs and Golf Balls. There aren't many other films that can make the same claim and I did actually dream about eggs last night. But there ends its effect. It wasn't scary, it wasn't funny, it wasn't original, it wasn't clever. It was too long. It was a waste of time.